Beijing will require consulates in Hong Kong to hand over the personal data of all locally employed staff by next month, a move that will bring the city in line with how the central government treats diplomatic offices.
The Post on Tuesday obtained a letter from the Commissioner’s Office of China’s Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong dated a day earlier that outlined the requirement for personal data, such as job titles, living addresses, travel documents and identity card numbers, to be submitted to authorities by October 18.
The new policy from the office, which acts as China’s foreign ministry arm in Hong Kong, covered all staff hired locally, including both permanent residents and those living in the city under any visa arrangements.
Multiple diplomats told the Post they had received the letter, but would need time to internally discuss their response to the requirement.
“The commissioner’s office never requested such information from us before, only in mainland China. Beijing is increasingly aligning its treatment of foreign missions in Hong Kong with those in the mainland,” said a veteran diplomat who asked to remain anonymous.
Hong Kong is host to 63 consulates-general and 53 honorary ones.
Another diplomat expressed concerns over what consequences local staff could face if they refused to hand over their private information to Chinese officials, who had not yet specified the exact purpose of the requirement.
“We need time to assess how to deal with the order while protecting staff privacy,” he said.
The Post has reached out to the commissioner’s office for comment.
According to the letter, consulates in Hong Kong must also complete two additional forms for all locally employed staff and submit them to the city government’s Protocol Division by October 18.
Diplomatic offices that bring in new staff will also be required to submit the employee’s personal information to authorities within 15 days of hiring them.
Under the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, Hong Kong’s foreign affairs are managed by the central government.
Tuesday’s letter also said that the personal data provided to the office could be passed on to other departments and authorities “for exercising their function in relation to managing the presence of the staff locally engaged”.
The document said such a request was “in line with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and general international practice”.
Last October, the central government asked consulates in Hong Kong to hand over floor plans for their missions, sparking concerns that Beijing was tightening its grip on diplomatic offices in Hong Kong.
The requirement covered properties “used as chancelleries, and residences of heads of missions and mission staff, and land for construction”.
The commissioner’s office also sought details such as each consulate’s opening date, the date and means by which properties were leased or acquired, and whether any sites had been used for purposes outside their official function.